MANI PADME HUM
monks bring a variety of activities to Athens, OU
By Lauren Van Arsdale
NEWS Campus Reporter
From India to Athens, 11 Tibetan monks from
the Drepung Gomang Monastery are in Athens to share their message
of a world transformed by wisdom and compassion.
This is one of the only rural communities that they have visited,
and the only Appalachian community, said Nancy Beres, event coordinator
and Athens resident.
"It is our duty to show them that not all Americans live in
a wealthy suburban neighborhood," she said.
This week, the monks will create a Medicine Buddha Sand Mandala
Painting, an elaborate design created with sand and colored powders,
which symbolizes a world transformed by wisdom and compassion. The
ceremonial process began Sunday at 9 a.m. on the second floor of
OU's Memorial Auditorium and will continue through Thursday. The
monks will work on the Sand Mandala from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. for
each of the four days, during which the public is invited to view
After the Mandala is completed on Thursday, Beres said, it will
be available to view for a short time before it is destroyed to
show the impermanence of the world. After the viewing period on
Thursday afternoon, organizers have planned a procession led by
Athens Mayor Ric Abel to the Hocking River. The sand will be placed
there as a healing for world peace, according to Beres.
Tonight's Cultural Pageant, another of the monks' main events, will
feature the chanting of traditional prayers accompanied by temple
instruments. Wearing traditional costumes, the monks will perform
sacred and ethnic dances. Together with the narration accompanying
each piece and featuring a monastic debate, the series of dances
and songs "provides a fascinating and warm glimpse into ancient
and modern Tibetan culture," according to the Tibetan Monks'
press release and program brochure.
This ticketed event has been the most popular program during the
monks' North American tour; therefore; standing room only is anticipated.
The Cultural Pageant will take place tonight at 7 in the Baker Center
There is a suggested $20 donation, but it is not meant to make people
feel that they must pay the full $20, Beres said. All the events
are run by donation so any amount is acceptable.
Along with the two main events on the OU campus, the monks will
conduct a cooking class, perform a "Yak dance," visit
selected OU classrooms, and conduct a series of Punjas, or blessings,
in various locations.
Justin McDaniel, OU professor of philosophy, will welcome the monks
into his classroom to give a "Dharma talk on Buddhist ethics
and the modern world." McDaniel has been involved in the logistics
of the monks' Athens visit, offering a plethora of background knowledge
of Buddhism due to his firsthand experience as a monk in Thailand.
McDaniel participated in a different order of monks, but they are
both Buddhist orders and he therefore understands the rules. McDaniel
also reads Sanskrit and Pali, two languages central to the Buddhist
The cooking class will be conducted at the ACENet Kitchen on Columbus
Road Wednesday evening at 6, and will be an opportunity for local
chefs and cooking hobbyists to experience some ancient, traditional
Tibetan cooking techniques, according to the press release.
The Yak dance is a silly and fun Tibetan village dance especially
for children, in which the monks will wear a large yak costume.
The dance is a celebration of the yak, an animal used a great deal
by people living in high altitudes. "If you live in high altitudes,
the yak is the animal that does everything for you," Beres
said. She compares their use to the Native Americans' use of the
The monks are on a year-long national tour in an effort to raise
money for a food fund they hope will help feed their monastery and
almost 25,000 refugees in India for several years, in case of famine
or war, according to Beres. They are also promoting awareness of
the Tibetan situation.
The Drepung Gomang Monastery in India is one of the largest establishments
of its kind that houses and cares for refugees. Since the first
Chinese occupation of Tibet more than 40 years ago, thousands of
refugees have been forced to flee their homeland of Tibet and seek
refuge in India.
Beres connected with this group of Tibetan monks through the Tibetan
Cultural Center in Bloomington, Ind., where the brother of Tibet's
spiritual leader, the Dali Lama, and several of his family members
live. The monks' tour began in September in Bloomington, and will
continue through June of next year, spending time next on the East
and West coasts, as well. Mary Patterson from the Tibetan Cultural
Center in Bloomington, is overseeing the entire tour and arrived
from Chicago with the monks on Saturday.
For more information about the schedule of events, contact Nancy Beres
or call 593-7090. For more information about the Drepung Gomang Monastery,